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The emergence of Rabat Ajax in season 1981-82

Rabat FC 1981-82 Division One League winners – Standing: Raymond Galea, Carmel Busuttil, Spiro Sillato, Mario Zahra, Albert Pearson, Emmanuel Cortis. Squatting: Edward Muscat, Edmond Caruana, David Busuttil, Kevin Asciak, Frans Mallia.

A young Carmel Busuttil inspires the Magpies to the titleFor many years, the game in Malta was dominated by Floriana FC and Sliema Wanderers.

Season after season, the Celtic and Rangers of Maltese football were always there at the final reckoning. Sometimes, one of the other teams would rear its head but this was rare and far between.

After the war, with the emergence of Valletta and Ħamrun Spartans the picture began to change a little but the dominance of the members of the old firm continued well into the 1970’s.

It was in the Sixties, when Valletta and Hibernians came into the picture, the hold the Greens and the Blues had on the game began to loosen.

By the Eighties, other clubs like Ħamrun Spartans, Żurrieq, Rabat Ajax and Birkirkara began to appear in the scene.

These newcomers gave the game in Malta a more fluid appearance.

The emergence of Rabat Ajax’s brief reign as the top team in Malta started in 1981-82 when the Ajax won the First Division championship and a place in the Premier Division.

In 1979-80, Rabat were lurking near the bottom of the Second Division League table. They were not relegated that season only because one team faced the drop.

The next campaign, however, the team improved beyond recognition. After an exciting league campaign, they were promoted to the First Division as runners-up to Żejtun Corinthians.

That season, Rabat made up somewhat for losing the championship when on Sunday, May 17, 1981 they won the Second Division Cup after beating Gudja United 3-0 in the final.

Rabat contested the 1981-82 Division One championship with the same crop of youngsters who took them out of the Third Division five seasons before.

By now, the youngsters had matured into a formidable combination.

That season they dominated the competition to such an extent that they had already been crowned champions with three games still to play.

Rabat were finally declared champions with a clear eight points advantage over Zebbug Rangers.

The revelation of the season was a youngster who was destined to reach the very top of the game in Malta.

Carmel Busuttil, ‘il-Bużu’, scored nine vital goals and was the architect of many of the other 25 scored by Rabat that season.

Busuttil was, without any doubt, the new rising star of Maltese football but it would be wrong to ignore the rest of the Rabat players.

The Ajax’s success that season and later in the Premier League was due to a bunch of highly-talented youngsters and the team-work and harmony which existed in that formidable combination.

Rabat won their first five league matches on the trot before they drew 1-1 with Zejtun Corinthians in their next encounter.  The Ajax continued to win one game after the other until they met Żebbuġ Rangers on February 6, 1982.

The Rangers were lying second behind Rabat, but they dropped too many points to challenge Rabat seriously.

Rabat had already beaten Żebbug 5-1 in the first round when they met for the second-round encounter. This time, however, they had to content themselves with a 1-1 draw. It was enough however, to conserve their unbeaten record.

For Żebbuġ, that precious point gave them a slight advantage over Birkirkara which they kept up to the end of the competition to gain a place in the Premier Division.

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